Pants for Dogs, Safe Paw products go with the flow

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    BySharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

    Pet Talk: Pants for Dogs, Safe Paw products go with the flow


    Dog lovers are a resolute lot when it comes to solving their pets' problems.
    This is the tale of two of them: two dog lovers who got inventive — in very different ways — because of dog issues they were contending with; then they got entrepreneurial, and then the marketplace wound up with new products.

    The results of their problem-solving imaginations have been on full display in recent days at two pretty darned high-profile events on either side of North America: one at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York this week, and the other at the Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Pants for Dogs: For protective purposes

    First product up: cute, comfy and — of utmost importance — absorbent doggie undies and thongs.

    Sounds crazy to anyone who hasn't had a dog with a bit of an incontinence/dribbling problem, or a female dog that hasn't been fixed. But those of us who have owned and loved such a dog have spent more than a few minutes wishing Depends came in canine configurations.

    Neena Pellegrini to the rescue.

    She's the founder of Pants for Dogs (Pants for Dogs ::: Panties With Panache For Dogs Of All Shapes & Sizes), a little Seattle-based cottage industry filling hundreds of orders for tiny- to massive-sized panties for female dogs, and, for male dogs, items she calls cummerbunds (although the waist isn't, in a precise sense, the true target, of course). Each garment in its own way protects rugs, floors and whatever else needs protecting from the drips and streams we'd rather not contemplate (and certainly not discuss).

    The business started four years ago when Pellegrini's little male dog kept marking her little female dogs. A training issue, most would say. But improvement doesn't happen overnight. How do you protect the girls?

    She found some canine "belly bands" marketed for more or less that purpose, but the fit wasn't great, the elastic chafed, and the durability was less than ideal. So Pellegrini re-thought the concept, came up with some design specifications and found a seamstress willing to stitch some up.

    Folks started asking about them, and Pellegrini, a journalist by trade, decided to perfect the cummerbund design even further, get a few dozen made "more as an amusement, really, just to see what might happen," and came up with a design for girl dogs. Pretty soon she was plying her attractively patterned creations — into which a sanitary napkin is slipped — online.

    Many of her customers are owners of female purebreds that need a little something when they come into season. So in recent days, during Westminster, Pellegrini has set up a booth in the dog-friendly hotel across from Madison Square Garden, joining a handful of other dog-products vendors.

    Pellegrini recently applied for a patent and began selling "thongs," little wisps of protection for female dogs inspired by the need of poodle owners to obtain panties that don't crush those hip poms called "rosettes."

    You might imagine only owners of froufrou dogs have interest in these things. You would be wrong. There's big demand for her products — offered in a colorful array of patterns, including dragonfly, flags and bones — in sizes intended for Great Danes and bull mastiffs.

    Show dog owners are only half her clientele. The rest are owners of "pets with medical or age problems who are desperate" to find something with the right fit and functionality, she says. "They've seen those pet diapers in pet stores, maybe tried them, and they're just not right."

    The cummerbunds go for $20 to $25, depending on whether you're attiring a terrier or a Saint Bernard; the female ones go for $25 to $35 (and you can get panties with ruffles for a little more if you think your dog would enjoy something more obviously girlie).

    Some owners buy them in several colors.

    Pellegrini regularly tweaks something here and there to fine-tune her offerings. She devised panties minus tail hole, for example, for English bulldogs and French bulldogs, breeds that, well, have no need for such an opening.

    "My basement is filled with pants for dogs," she says with a laugh. Something she never anticipated when she set about solving a personal pet problem.

    Safe Paw: No harm in melting the ice

    Meanwhile, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a product that's being spread about by the bucketsful also was born of a need identified by a devoted pet owner.

    Safe Paw ice melter, the ice/snow remover chosen by the Olympics organizers because it's environmentally friendly, was developed a few years back by a dad, Steven Greenwald, responding to his son's worry that all the sidewalk-clearing products on the market were dangerous to his dog.

    "I told him I would look into it," Greenwald told me.

    The man knew something about such products, since he'd come up with something called Safe Thaw for the nuclear power industry, which required something far less corrosive than the salt-based products that had been the standard for decades.

    It took him two years of fiddling, but he "discovered that if I changed several of the components in Safe Thaw, I would have a pet- and child-safe ice-melter that would have all the other characteristics that was present with Safe Thaw."

    Safe Paw was brought to the marketplace — from a little company in Pennsylvania that Greenwald founded — more than a decade ago. And Dante, the dog that inspired all that creativity, lived a long, happy, paw-burn-free life until his death at the end of last year.

    Pet Talk: Pants for Dogs, Safe Paw products go with the flow -

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